The last battle at the Butterfield development was determined in less than an hour when the Planning Board on Thursday night passed the final piece of the parking puzzle, clearing the way for a new Philipstown Senior Center at the Lahey Pavilion.
And less than three business days later, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker and Fred Pena, county commissioner of Highways and Facilities, reported that the county is moving as rapidly as possible to bring the Senior Center to fruition. They met Tuesday morning, continuing into the afternoon, in a cramped office at Lahey to review plans with Elizabeth Ailes, whose family is spearheading the renovation and then donating the finished product to the county for use by the town’s seniors. Butterfield developer Paul Guillaro, County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra and Pat Sheehy, director of the Office for Senior Resources, also joined the gathering Tuesday morning in Cold Spring.
“The seniors will have a beautiful new facility with programs to keep them active, entertained and healthy,” Odell said. “Moreover, they will enjoy the added benefits of additional housing, shopping and shuttle transportation as part of the overall Butterfield redevelopment objective.”
The county recently announced that Todd Zwigard Architects was awarded the design contract on this project, which encompasses the redesign of the Carolyn Lahey Pavilion on the Butterfield campus. A 6,000 sq. ft. section of the building will house a new state-of-the-art senior center. Two professionals affiliated with the firm, architect Dana Hochberg and mechanical engineer Clifford Stevens, along with builder Ray Memmel, who will do the renovation on behalf of the Ailes’ family non-profit, also took part in Tuesday’s inspection. A new Post Office will also be in the building, but that renovation is being undertaken separately from the senior center.
Odell said she’s pleased that the delays have been cleared away. “Now, we can get down to real progress on the planning and construction of this long-awaited new senior community center for Philipstown residents.”
Scuccimarra was also ecstatic: “I’m just glad our seniors are finally getting the senior center we’ve all worked so hard for, for such a long time.” She added it was a tremendous relief that the village Planning Board and county were now in agreement regarding the location of the center.
Thursday night’s Planning Board meeting drew a similar who’s who, including Walker, County Legislators Scuccimarra and Carl Albano, Philipstown Councilman Bob Flaherty, senior advocates Shirley Norton and Donna Anderson, and Mayor Dave Merandy and his wife, former trustee Stephanie Hawkins. Guillaro and his lawyer Steve Barshov sat in the first row.
The planning meeting opened with chair Matt Francisco joined by fellow planners Judith Rose, Arne Saari and Ezra Clementson (Dave Marion was absent from the proceeding and final vote). At the top of the meeting, Francisco, in what some saw as a highly unusual step, read a detailed, unsigned letter opposing the parking at the site. Francisco said the initial plan was to have all of the paperwork a week in advance, but the needed SEQRA (environmental review) paperwork was completed just two hours before the meeting and the parking plan that morning. “So we are going to have to sit here and actually do some work,” he said. The board then hashed out the parking plan out loud and took time to make changes. Guillaro, with plans in hand, helped the planners to find four more “conforming” parking spaces, or 211, up from 207 currently. Twenty one other “nonconforming” spaces that are slightly shorter or narrower than code were also maintained.
The meeting was marked with a spirit of cooperation on all sides. It was also determined that the plan may have to once again go before the Historic District Review Board should the Building Inspector deem it necessary, because new doors will have to be cut into the current building. It was noted that the Lahey Pavilion was not a historic building in itself but is in the historic district.
At the end of the meeting Anderson and Norton seemed drained, but relieved. This last meeting of the Planning Board also clears the way for the county for finalize the 15-year lease with Guillaro for the senior center.
Meanwhile, construction continues on Building 2; once it is finished, the medical offices now there will move to the new structure, and Lahey will then be empty and ready for the overhaul. Via the Office for Senior Resources, the county will manage the senior center, which will accommodate up to 100 people. The facility will feature social events, education, computers and access to counseling. The Ailes’ family gift amounts to $500,000 in construction and renovation work that will not have to be borne by county taxpayers. The gift from Roger Ailes, of Garrison, includes his $250,000 Bradley Foundation prize, which he won in 2013, and a like amount from his family’s personal funds.
Mrs. Ailes is overseeing the work on behalf of her family. Discussion Tuesday among the building professionals included the placement of the Timme Arch (which was saved from the former Butterfield Hospital), as well as a host of other items relating to the senior center and its outfitting. The Ailes family had earlier requested that developer Guillaro continue to refer to the structure by its existing name, the Lahey Pavilion.
Mr. Ailes said Tuesday that seniors he speaks with in Philipstown, of all political stripes, almost uniformly support the project. He noted the strong support of Odell, a Republican, from the county level, and added, “Republicans and Democrats are for it. Senator Chuck Schumer always steps forward for our seniors.”
And now, the project is moving rapidly ahead at last. Building plans for the interior are due to be delivered in July, with construction for the new center set for November. Completion is anticipated as rapidly as possible in spring 2017.